Then Peter began to say to him, See, we have left all, and have followed you.…
Christ had pity for this young man. He saw his soul visited by the dream of a more perfect life; then the dissolving of the dream and the return to commonplace. It were impossible not to pity his after life, for he could never be the same again. "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the Kingdom of God." The disciples felt the difficulty. Then Peter said, "We have left all," etc. "It was very ill done of them," we say, "very selfishly thought, and no good could come of it." That is the hard way in which we speak, but we forget, when we ask this fine spirituality from men who are beginning the higher life, that we are asking more than human nature can bear. We are asking of the student the self-denial of the scholar. Christ did not ask this; He was tender to spiritual childhood. He was satisfied with the seeds of affection. He knew that if love was there it would grow, and that as their mind advanced and their love changed to higher love, the reward desired would also change.
I. THE SACRIFICE ASKED FOR HERE WAS TO GIVE UP THE WHOLE WORLD AND ITS GOODS; TO GIVE THEM TO THE POOR AND TO FOLLOW CHRIST. Is no one a Christian who does not utterly make it? Christ always asked for sacrifice of life, of self, for God. That is the principle. In this case a special form of the life was asked for, and for a special reason. The sacrifice of wealth was the special form. The special reason was this. Christ was the founder of a new method of religion; He wanted missionaries to propagate it. No one could think of Paul or Xavier or Henry Martyn with great possessions, without a smile at the incongruity. Apostolic work could not be done by a man with ten thousand a year. The special form of the demand was motived by special circumstances. Such a demand was not made of all rich men; it would be contrary to the universal character of His religion, which was to enter into the life of all classes, rich and poor, as a spirit. It would shut out all rich men from Christianity; it would upturn society for no good. In fifty years all the industrious and intelligent would be rich again. It would be wrong; for wealth has its duties, its own ideal of life. The wealthy are bound to keep their wealth, and to use it, but in obedience to the spirit of sacrifice.
II. ALL THIS KIND OF TALK COMES FROM PERSONS BEING FOOLISH ENOUGH TO BIND A SPIRITUAL IDEA INTO ONE SPECIAL FORM. The spirit of sacrifice may express itself in a thousand different ways, even in opposite ways in different men, It may be the giving up of wealth in one man, the taking up its duties in another. One man may sacrifice by leaving those whom he loves, another by remaining at home. Take the principle; do not limit it to one meaning. That is one characteristic of the idea of sacrifice. It cannot be specialized. In one point the special demand made on the rich man is in accord with the whole idea of sacrifice; it is in its absoluteness. It asks us to give up all our selfish life. "It is an impossible demand," say these persons. It was original, and Christ knew it. It did not say, like the moral law — this, do and you shall live, and you can do it. It did say "This ideal life I set before you is far beyond mere conformity with law. It is perfection. You shall not live by doing it completely, but by loving it and labouring towards it. It will transcend eternal endeavour, and thus secure eternal progress. The morality of the law is measurable, it stops at a certain point. The righteousness I put before you is immeasurable, infinite as God." It was a higher method than that of the moralist. It is only by loving and following illimitable ideas that man grows great. Their impossibility is their highest virtue, and awakens the highest virtue; they kindle unfading aspiration. It is better for man to live by than the standard of immorality. I now turn to the question of reward as illustrated by the answer of Christ. It is the custom now to say that we are to live the high life without a single hope of future reward; to hope for it is to set religion on a selfish basis. But there is no selfishness in the doctrine of rewards offered by Christ. His rewards are naturally connected with the acts, following from them and contained in them, as a flower follows from, and is contained in, the seed. The word fruits is better than the word rewards. The fruits are multiplied results. To live, hoping for the reward of a more unselfish life, and becoming more unselfish as one hopes and acts for such a life — is it not too ludicrous to call that a selfish motive? The man who gave up lands, houses, etc., received them tenfold; but not in a way which could serve his selfishness; on the contrary, in a way which increased the spirit of a larger love. It lifted above the narrow circle of an isolated family rote union with mankind. Eternal life is another reward promised by Christ. "He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life." It may co-exist with what the world calls misery — "with persecutions." It cannot be material ease. So far, the element of ease or happiness is excluded. Love doubles itself by loving. Truth in us increases by being true. Mercy, purity, faith, hope, bring forth themselves in multiplied abundance. The sum of them all is a life with God and in God, and that is eternal life, a state of the soul. It cannot be selfish, it puts before man as his highest aim, union with God.
(S. A. Brooke, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.